Odeon not Apollo…
It will always be the Hammersmith Odeon to me and as the name suggests the Odeon was once a cinema. Opened in 1932 as the Gaumont Palace cinema, it was designed by Robert Cromie in Art Deco style. In the mid 1970’s which was when I first visited this prestigious venue, all the main rock bands would pass through here including Thin Lizzy, AC/DC/ Rainbow, Rush, Black Sabbath etc and prior to that The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Marley all played. In my mercifully short-lived head-banging days I remember seeing Judas Priest, Rush, Ted Nugent, Richie Blackmore, Whitesnake, AC/DC and an amazing Weather Report gig which for me as a bass player was like witnessing some sort of biblical act as Jaco set alight his Fender Precision, quite literally. From then on, this was the venue to which I aspired and I openly declared “you haven’t made it until you’ve played Hammy Odeon”. Me and my band used to dream of walking onto the sacred stage and when it actually happened in 1982 with Roxy Music, my head was so full of other things, the gravity of the moment seemed to pass. Again, on the Brothers in Arms tour when the Straits (I mean Dire Straits) played here, we were caught up in a fair bit of worldwide popularity so it felt like just another small gig on a massive tour. I do remember however the gigs with Hank Marvin and Eric Clapton guesting, thinking that maybe I’d ‘made it’. We used to talk so much about ‘making it’ in those early days, it’s difficult to forget the sheer desire we had.
When I heard that we’d be playing three nights at Hammersmith Odeon with Mr. Bob, naturally I was delighted. I never did quite find out however why these three shows were announced so late in the day to the chagrin of many fans. So here we are then, back in the building of many stars and stairs. Backstage at the Odeon is unique in that there isn’t an elevator, nor would there be room for one and most of the rooms are extremely small. There are however a lot of rooms and finding your way around can be a little daunting at first. Thankfully, modern tour productions understand the benefits of efficient signage and there are many signs in every corridor indicating the way to the stage, production, dressing room, wardrobe etc. etc. There are of course two of everything on this trip (except stage) so the signage is important.
The band reconvened in London after two days off at home for me to the news that Jon Lewis’s wife has gone into labour and so he had to travel home to Wales. Dave Vinnicomb has taken the monitor desk hot seat for the last three shows of the tour.
When we were finally called to the stage for sound-check by Colin Barton our production manager, my first thought was “doesn’t this place look small with all the seats out”. The lower (stalls) area of the venue has been allocated as standing and my memories of the Odeon were jolted. In fact it reminded me more of the Shepherds Bush Empire with the large standing area on the floor and seating upstairs. The sound too was a bit of a pleasant shock after 38 arena shows in succession, the bottom end was noticeably improved. I could actually hear the tone of the kick drum in the hall as opposed to a very ‘waffly’ bottom end which arenas are subject to. I should point out that even though we use in-ear monitoring, sound still gets in and affects our perception of the room, hence my willingness to write about it.
The show – Walking onstage to a packed, standing London audience still raises a hair or two on the back of the neck. You can never fully get away from that anticipation and very slight trepidation that comes with the first night of a home gig. For a few of us in the band, it was a first time here. The reception we received could be described as excitable. Dave did a great job on the monitors and Mark played and sang with the renewed energy we’ve come to expect. I know the hardcore Dylan contingent were there in force but I like to think we won them over, or at least entertained them before their idol took to the stage.
I was out by the mixing desk when Bob did so and the atmosphere was electric. Mark was there as usual for the first few tunes and once again, Bob seemed to be really enjoying the moment but as always, Mark left as swiftly as he’d come on without a word from Bob. Later on, I watched the end of the show from side-of stage and for the first time saw the end of the show, a rocking version of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, probably the first time all evening that the crowd had something they could really sing along to…and they did. Then it was a very conciliatory, almost awkward wave and off he went with band in tow. “House lights”, and that was it. We had a few guests to see after the show and my pathetic head cold reared its head again and I promptly lost my voice, straight to bed methinks..